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Repeated CoA Battles Making Indian Cricket Laughing Stock

Ayaz Memon |January 17, 2019, 10:54 AM IST
Repeated CoA Battles Making Indian Cricket Laughing Stock

When it scrutinizes the status report submitted by the Committee Of Administrators (COA) on Thursday (January 2019), the Supreme Court might find itself in a piquant situation on how to move further from here.

Far from succeeding in implementing the Justice Lodha panel recommendations to overhaul the Board Of Control For Cricket In India (BCCI), the COA is now riddled with a menacing internecine problem that threatens to reduce the whole exercise into a farce.

In the past couple of months Vinod Rai and Diana Edulji, the two remaining members of the COA (originally there were four), have grown apart drastically, sparring on virtually every issue. Apart from reducing the efficacy of the committee, it is also making Indian cricket a laughing stock.

Not only has there been tardy progress in forcing reforms, but the Hardik Pandya-KL Rahul controversy has also seen factions of the BCCI ‘old guard’ teaming up with Edulji – in direct conflict with measures mooted by Rai -- on the course of action to be taken against the errant cricketers!

As it has emerged, the dissonance between the two goes back to mid-2017 when Anil Kumble was removed as chief coach of the Indian men’s team (which Edulji opposed vehemently) on skipper Virat Kohli’s insistence. But it has gone rapidly downhill in the past few months starting with the #MeToo allegations against BCCI CEO Rahul Johri.

Edulji was vocal in her unhappiness with the way in which the whole episode was handled, believing it was done in a namby-pamby manner by Rai to help Johri, and things have not been the same between the two since.

The Mithali Raj-Ramesh Powar-Harmanpreet Kaur fracas was the second major flash point. Edulji stood behind the women’s team’s captain and coach, citing the Kohli-Kumble instance, only this time captain Harmanpreet was for retaining Powar.

She was overruled, a three-member scrutiny panel, comprising of Kapil Dev, Anshuman Gaekwad and Shanta Rangaswamy, was empowered to pick a new coach and former India opener WV Raman won favour. But not without controversy again, for the scrutiny panel had actually picked Gary Kirsten who was later found to have 'conflict of interest’!

Snubbed by Rai on these previous occasions, Edulji dug her heels in when the Pandya-Rahul misdemeanor on the Karan Johar talk show came to light and caused a brouhaha in the country.

Rai suggested a two-match suspension for the players. But Edulji – finding unexpected support from the BCCI – insisted on a bureaucratic procedure that saw Pandya and Rahul recalled from Australia where they were part of the ODI squad.

The two now face an inquiry committee and their future hangs in the balance. When asked whether their absence would not affect the Indian team, Edulji’s blunt response was that the image of Indian cricket and the sport was bigger than the players. This is a home truth that nobody can deny.

Edulji’s rigid stand stems from the lack of regard for women in the manner in which Pandya (particularly) and Rahul conducted themselves on Karan Johar's show.

Gender and race sensitivity are now prerequisites, more so from public figures, in the way they conduct themselves particularly in the public domain and the players were clearly in the breach.

Edulji had been uncompromising on the sexual harassment allegations against Johri, but what the remedial action against Pandya and Rahul should be is moot. This is not a #MeToo case, there were no official complaints against them. Neither was their 'sin’ was as grave as say match-fixing or cheating a la Steve Smith and David Warner.

While what Pandya (primarily) and Rahul said on the show did not present Indian cricket in very good light, should the quantum of punishment for bawdy, ill-considered locker room talk even if distilled in public, invite a similar process of inquiry and punishment is the question.

Already shamed in public – with Pandya suffering material setbacks too, with a product endorsement and private club membership lost – perhaps their offense could have been treated as a one-time misdemeanor, inviting censure, perhaps a monetary fine too, without imperiling their future.

While the prompt show cause notice to the two was justified and smart work, their contrition and unqualified apology should also be taken cognizance of, more so since they were not repeat offenders.

Pandya and Rahul can’t be absolved of what they’ve done. Hopefully, the lesson has been hard learnt, not just by them, but everybody else in the Indian dressing room. The larger need, of course, is for sensitizing young players in the system, especially in the 16-21 years age group to prevent such incidents in the future.

Meanwhile, for the Supreme Court, there is the future of the Indian cricket administration to consider. When the CoA was constituted, the SC had held that the process of cleansing would take 8-9 months at most.

More than two years later, as the status report would reveal, the progress made has been tardy. Most state associations remain partially or noncompliant to the reforms mooted. Not just that, one faction of the CoA, as the Pandya-Rahul case suggests, now seems to have moved close to the same BCCI which it is supposed to set right.

Who then bells the cat?

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